With its growing number of trendy restaurants and hip coffeehouses, Gainesville has been transforming into a foodie’s paradise in recent years. Among the many options are nutrition-focused spots that offer menu items catering to vegans, vegetarians and health-conscious consumers alike. Designer Greens, Daily Green, Vale Food Co. and Fresh Corner are a few healthy options that are definitely worth checking out.
Located at 1702 W University Avenue, Designer Greens is the place to go for homemade hummus, hormone-free and steroid-free chicken, and extra-large salads. Steven Kay opened the Gainesville location in March of 2009 after observing a gap in the market. At the time, many viewed nutritional menu items, such as salads, as inadequate for a main course, and Kay wanted to shift the perception.
“While salads can be healthy, I didn’t really approach it from that angle but instead I saw
the salad as something that a lot of people could eat as a meal on its own or pair with a half sandwich or pita and hummus,” Kay said.
Designer Greens partners with Florida farms as much as possible and frequently uses Fresh Point, an Orlando-based company, and Harvey’s Tomatoes, a Gainesville company to source product. These companies work with farms all over Florida and allow Kay to use regionally grown cucumbers, tomatoes, and strawberries.
“We get deliveries of veggies and fruits almost daily,” Kay said. “We strive to always serve a very fresh product. The fact that almost every customer orders a salad ensures we go through our product very fast, so nothing ever sits on our shelves long.”
Located at 436 SE 2nd Street is Daily Green, which opened in August of 2013 as a restaurant that its three owners would want to eat at – a place that would fill a niche that Gainesville had not been filling prior.
“Our belief is providing real food for people,” said John Arana, a Daily Green co-owner. “We live in a society rot with processed, premade and frozen food, and we realized how we feel when we go and eat real food versus food that isn’t necessarily alive.”
From savory waffle cones and salads to freshly pressed juices and kombucha, Daily Green has a variety of options to power you through the day. Food is purchased from local farms, including Siembra Farm and The Family Garden, and everything is made in-house and cut by hand. Food also never touches a microwave or fryer, and food waste is sent back to a farm to feed animals.
“We are very heavy on vegetarian options, but we do offer meat options as well,” Arana said. “We wanted to create a healthy restaurant but not alienate people. Our goal is for people to come in and be able to get something that they like or try something new.”
Though everyone may hear about the importance of eating healthy, Arana believes it is important for people to experience the difference for themselves in order to make better choices.
“One of the biggest things that I hear people say since we opened is that when they eat at our restaurant they feel more energized than they did when they came in,” Arana said. “It has gone beyond people hearing about the importance of eating nutritious food to people experiencing it.”
Located at 3841 SW Archer Road, Suite B, Vale Food Co. is divided into two parts: a build-your-own bowl line and a super food station, both with nutritious items to satisfy your appetite. Though he began his business in Tallahassee, Sunny Ilyas, founder and CEO, expanded to Gainesville in March of 2016 after seeing a need for more healthy restaurants in the area.
“After conducting market research, we saw we could compete and offer different values not only to the student population but the medical field and the Gainesville locals,” Ilyas said.
So, what are these “different values”?
“The definition of Vale to us is to live an earthly life, and that is really exhibited from the reclaimed wood décor to our biodegradable food containers to all the food from the store being from the earth,” Ilyas said. “You’re not going to see food from Vale and wonder where it came from. We have real food with real ingredients.”
In the build-your-own bowl section of the restaurant, patrons can select a base, such as pesto-infused brown rice; a veggie, such as coconut cauliflower; a protein, like tofu; a boost, such as guacamole; and a sauce, like curry honey mustard.
Vale Food Co. works with regional distributors that have local farm partnerships in the community and greater Florida area.
“If we can go local, we will,” Ilyas said. “The next best thing is keeping our produce to a regional scale, and we are trying our best to source almost everything from the southeast to reduce the amount of travel time it takes for our produce to get from the farm and to our coolers.”
Located at 16 NW 18th Street, Fresh Corner is a brunch all-day concept that has been catering to the heart of Gainesville since January 2017. With waffles imported from Belgium and authentic New York bagels, Fresh Corner is the place to go to if you have a hankering for all things breakfast. Not only are the menu items drool worthy, but they are also as fresh as possible.
“We believe it is important to serve the freshest and best quality possible, which is why we smoke our chicken and salmon in-house and cut fruits and vegetables to order,” said Egan Herda, the operating partner at Fresh Corner. “Our goal is to provide a healthy and quick breakfast/lunch option for people on campus and in the midtown area.”
Popular dishes include the avocado toast, berry waffles and smoked chicken wraps along with their gluten-free options.
Recently, the restaurant introduced late night hours on Wednesdays and Fridays to be a healthy midnight snack stop for those enjoying Gainesville’s vibrant nightlife.